Research: Identifying Intervention Targets to Increase Mental Health Help-seeking in Undergraduate Engineers

Grants and Contracts Details


National data show that engineering students with mental health problems are significantly less likely to seek professional help than their peers. While treatment gaps exist for cisgender men, persons of color, and first-generation students in general, disparities are further pronounced in engineering. Interventions targeted at reshaping engineering identity to be supportive of mental health related help- seeking could increase success and retention of at-risk students. Furthermore, increased willingness to seek help could improve mental health into the workforce. Building off results from an NSF Research Initiation in Engineering Formation grant, this proposal aims to use a mixed-methods approach to improve and refine an engineering mental help-seeking instrument (EMHSI) based on the Integrated Behavioral Model to characterize key mental health related help-seeking beliefs in diverse undergraduate engineering students. By the conclusion of this proposal, we will have identified key help-seeking beliefs that could be targets for mental health related help-seeking interventions in diverse institutional contexts nationally. Although the EMHSI was designed to measure beliefs relevant to students with diverse identities, the University of Kentucky (UK) is a research-focused Predominantly White Institution (PWI). Therefore, the first objective of this proposal will be to improve the EMHSI through focus groups at Prairie View A&M University (PV) and University of Houston (UH) to ensure that the instrument is inclusive of help- seeking beliefs of the students at these institutions. Through these focus groups, we will develop a list of salient belief items to be added to the EMHSI instrument. Next, cognitive interviews will be conducted with students from these institutions to verify the clarity of the instrument. With this improved EMHSI, large-scale data collection will be conducted at UK, UH and PV to allow for refinement of the instrument through removal of items that prove insignificant across relevant student subgroups (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, first generation status). This will result in an EMHSI with improved validity, clarity and feasibility for large-scale data collection. Finally, the instrument will be used to collect data at three additional institutions. This will allow for development of a standardized protocol for identifying key help-seeking beliefs in different institutional contexts, as well as create a comprehensive list of key help seeking beliefs across a diverse array of engineering students.
Effective start/end date9/1/228/31/25


  • National Science Foundation: $349,591.00


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